Julia Child, Television Chef, Is Dead at 91posted 2004-08-13 12:26:25 by stevemay
NEW YORK (AP) -- Julia Child, whose warbling, encouraging voice and able hands brought the intricacies of French cuisine to American home cooks through her television series and books, died in her sleep three days before what would have been her 92nd birthday.
"America has lost a true national treasure," Nicholas Latimer, director of publicity for Alfred A. Knopf publishing, said in a statement Friday. "She will be missed terribly."
The statement said she died Thursday at her home in Santa Barbara, Calif. The cause of death was not given.
A 6-foot-2 American folk hero, "The French Chef" was known to her public as Julia, and preached a delight not only in good food but in sharing it, ending her landmark public television lessons at a set table and with the wish, "Bon appetit."
"Dining with one's friends and beloved family is certainly one of life's primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal," she said in the introduction to her seventh book, "The Way to Cook." "In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal."
Chipper and unpretentious, she beckoned everyone to give good food a try. She wasn't always tidy in the kitchen, and just like the rest of us, she sometimes dropped things or had trouble getting a cake out of its mold.
In an A-line skirt and blouse, and an apron with a dish towel tucked into the waist, Julia Child grew familiar enough to be parodied by Dan Aykroyd on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" and the subject of Jean Stapleton's musical revue, "Bon Appetit." She was on the cover of Time magazine in 1966.
Active and a frequent traveler in her 80s, Child credited good genes and a habit begun in her 40s of eating everything in moderation.
Susy Davidson, a consultant who worked with Child on "Good Morning America," called Child's friendship a great gift.
"She's helped me redefine age, No. 1," Davidson once said. "She is the standard by which I judge all professionals. She's always eager to learn something, to try something new. She just has this generosity of spirit."
She was foremost a teacher and never lost sight of the goal set out in volume one of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking": "Anyone can cook in the French manner anywhere, with the right instruction. Our hope is that this book will be helpful in giving that instruction."
Like her friend James Beard, Child was influenced but not battered by the popularity of fast food, low-fat food, health food. She aimed "The Way to Cook" at a new generation and while it offered plenty of recipes using butter and cream, it left room for experimentation and variation in its blend of classic French and free-style American techniques. It was a hit, with nearly 400,000 copies in print just four months after publication.
She worried, however, that the health craze was overdone.
"What's dangerous and discouraging about this era is that people really are afraid of their food," she told The Associated Press in 1989. "Sitting down to dinner is a trap, not something to enjoy. People should take their food more seriously. Learn what you can eat and enjoy it thoroughly."
Child did not take a cooking lesson until she was in her 30s. And she was in her 50s when her first television series began in 1963.